Creative Team Building and Leadership Resources - In our Elements

F Words

Friday, May 25th, 2012

Fellow Passengers: This week’s Pastoral Passage* (Romans 11:25-36) transports me to the football field of my wife Kim’s alma mater, Furman University, during her tenure as a student there in the early 80s. Kim tells me that Furman’s President at that time, John Johns, was much beloved by the students, not so much for his skilled administration and effective leadership, which was apparent enough, but for the energy he brought to football games, as he created a tradition of leading the enthusiastic crowd in a rowdy cheer every game. He would climb up on the cheerleaders’ platform, wearing his purple sports coat, and shout through the megaphone- F U one time! F U two times! F U three times! F U all the time! Chaplain Jim Pitts was in the President’s office one day when Dr. Johns got a phone call from a disgruntled alumnus, who asked him if he knew what F U meant. He replied, Of course, it means Furman University. The caller explained to him the other meaning of the abbreviation, and Dr. Johns feigned innocence, responding, You have a dirty mind! and hung up the phone. I thought of John Johns’ cheer recently when a good friend came back from a protest around economic and environmental justice. He told me he had been disappointed to find that a pretty intense “F U energy” was predominant among the protesters, and while he acknowledged there are good reasons for people to vent frustrations, he lamented that outrage isn’t likely to build larger coalitions or create the kind of transformation needed in our culture.

There is plenty of F U energy in the Bible, and not the Furman University variety. There’s a whole lot of flipping off evildoers and a condemning them to one hell or another, be it the trumpeted hell of Jericho’s genocide or the prophetic hell of exile and oppression or the wormy and teeth-gnashing hell of fire and brimstone. There are plenty of proof texts for those who want to deepen the great divides between the good folks and bad, the righteous and the unrighteous, the saved and the lost, the heaven-bound and hell-bent. But it is not in today’s passage. Here in the book of Romans, the nadir of Paul writing, the synthesis of his theology, we read and feel a very different energy. What cheer does Paul lead here in this passage? A cheer of universal mercy and salvation. Twice he makes use of the inclusive word all – in verse 26, he claims that all Israel shall be saved; God will take away their sins, even though they have rejected the gospel. He goes on to include Gentiles as well as Jews in his expansive vision of God’s saving grace; while both groups are disobedient, both receive mercy, with the idea summed up in verse 32: For God has bound everyone over to disobedience so that he may have mercy on them all.

Saving mercy for all. There are times when this idea, when this inclusive energy, gets stretched to the limits. I think about the opposing kind of energy, the excluding F U energy, that has been circulating on YouTube this week, and the responses to it. Pastor Charles Worley in his viral sermon was essentially flipping off all the lesbians and queers of the world, giving them a roaring F U all the time, wishing he could consign them all to a concentration camp type of hell. And there are plenty of progressive folks who have no trouble flipping him off and dishing it right back at him. Most of the F U’s coming back at Charles Worley are far more clever and sophisticated and far less direct than his harangue, but it’s an F U energy nonetheless, shaming him and placing him square in the ranks of intolerable outsiders. I find myself resonating with the frustrations of my friend who went to the public protest. As justifiable and understandable and necessary as the rage and the prophetic pushback is, we also need something more transformative. We need a different kind of energy to direct toward the Charles Worleys of our world. What if we all donned our purple coats and shouted a different kind of F U into the megaphone – a Forgive You cheer? Forgive You one time! Forgive You two times! Forgive You three times! Forgive You all the time! What might happen if all the progressive Baptists in and around Maiden, NC, gay and lesbian as well as straight Baptists who are welcoming and affirming, by the mercies of God went and joined Providence Road Baptist Church? For real, not for show. Now that would be a real trip, a true “Maiden Voyage.” What if this group of new members spent time getting to know the congregation as well as the pastor? Learned to sing their songs. Volunteered in their ministries. Prayed for their sick. Sent cards to their homebound. Took food to their covered dish suppers. Became part of them. What if this group of new members prayerfully forgave the church of whatever wayward theologies and destructive ethics they might hear week in and week out, and learned to love them? Who knows, the old guard Providence Road folks might just let their guard down and get to know these strangers, in all their humanity, and learn to love them, too. Transformation might happen, and all might be surprised by grace along the way. For indeed, as Paul taught us, God has bound everyone over to disobedience of one sort or another, so that the good Lord might have mercy on us all.

How about you? Where does this Pastoral Passage take you on your journey of faith? Feel free to respond, and share with friends on Facebook, Google+, Twitter, etc.

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Comments

  • May 25, 2012 at 6:02 am

    Stan, you are a real peacemaker and wonderful role model for us all. I, who am quite judgmental of gay and lesbian bashers and war mongers, need to engage in a positive loving way with those who oppose my political views. In need to practice Forgive You more often–not in words but in actions. Thanks a heap!

    Comment by Janet Davies

  • May 25, 2012 at 10:16 am

    “Gay and lesbian bashers and war mongers?” Most of the people who take the stand that it is wrong are not bashers, or warmongers. Most of them read the Bible and understand the BIBLE to say it is sin. Lots of things in the Bible are sin. We aren’t out there bashing and mongering the thieves, the fornicators, the murderers or the lesbians & gays. We simply stand firm in our belief that the Bible says it is wrong. But Stanley is right, there are some who could stand to show more love and understanding on both sides of the issue. Almost everyone stands firm in their belief system, and that’s ok as long as we remember, others of a different belief system will too.

    Comment by Shannon

  • May 25, 2012 at 11:12 am

    A very interesting take on the horrific “sermon” preached by Mr. Worley. I do believe that forgiveness is called for but speaking up for love, compassion and justice is absolutely required. If voices of love do not speak up then this level of dangerous hate is allowed to flourish.

    My decision to to to NC on Sunday has nothing to do with an FU for Mr. Worley and everything to do with showing that even in the south, love wins. The seething hatred oozing out of that pulpit and being affirmed by amens calls for a chorus of love and peace. Not to protest him or his people but to shine a different voice, a different Christian and civil voice in the heart of the south.

    As for attending the church…I have already been abused by family and friends, neighbors and strangers in my life of coming to terms with how God created me to be. I would never return to a place that is so clearly bent on abuse. I am called to be in relationship with people who have a different understanding of scripture than I, especially those who have no relationship what so ever with any gay or lesbian Christians but I will not, nor do I recommend anyone subject themselves to abuse.

    Comment by Kimberly

  • May 25, 2012 at 1:06 pm

    Janet – thanks for the honest comment, and for your commitment to peacemaking, even as we recognize how counter-intuitive it often is.

    Comment by Stan Dotson

  • May 25, 2012 at 1:13 pm

    Shannon – I hope you recognize that the post I wrote, and Janet’s response, was referring to Charles Worley’s sermon, not you and your biblical interpretation. I’m sorry if you identified with this hateful preacher and felt like we were talking about you. I trust that you treat your gay and lesbian friends and neighbors and family members and co-workers with more respect and civility and Christian love than Rev Worley exhibited in his sermon, where he called for all homosexuals to be rounded up and placed in death camps. I trust that the worst your gay acquaintances will receive from you is your judgment that they are hell-bound and your attempts to convert them to the straight and narrow life. What I hope you and others in your ideological camp would do is when you read a post like mine, use your strong voice to speak out clearly against the kind of hateful and potentially dangerous hate speak Charles Worley spewed in his sermon. You would do well to distance yourself from him, not identify with him as you seemed to do in this comment.

    Comment by Stan Dotson

  • May 25, 2012 at 1:26 pm

    Kimberly, thank you for your thoughtful and honest response. I do not wish to create an either-or mentality of how to respond to Rev. Worley and his excuse for a sermon. There certainly is integrity in shouting FUs at him, as there is in surrounding his church with songs of love. My wondering “what if” was not directed at people from outside the area – it was about people who have roots in his community and have to live as neighbors with him and his congregation. My hope is that some progressives will take the opportunity to set up opportunities for Charles Worley and others like him to experience radical transformation. My suspicion is that demanding repentance and occupying his church yard with singing and chanting will not lead to sustained change, but will cause him to dig in his heels and take on the victim role. I look to heroes in the peace and justice tradition to give me hope that the kind of transforming initiative I described could work, could help humanize those he has demonized, and create the conditions for true repentance so that future generations will have less, not more Charles Worleys to deal with. Examples of people I know personally include Edward Reynolds, the black man who integrated Wake Forest University in the early 60s. He entered a space of great abuse and hate, and because of him and others like him, the institution was forever changed. Another is Paco Rodes, a friend from Cuba who was jailed in the 60s simply for being a pastor. Many of his contemporaries were sent to concentration camps because of their faith; they along with homosexuals and violent criminals were labeled “deficient in ideology” and sent to these forced labor camps where the government tried to “rehabilitate” them. Paco, even in this environment, took the initiative to go and volunteer to be a part of the government’s work camps for harvesting the sugar cane, so that the communists would learn to value his humanity. It worked, over time, as the government eventually removed all the religious discrimination language from its constitution, and one of those pastors who spent time in that labor camp, Paco’s brother in law Raul Suarez, became a member of Parliament. I suspect that we will one day add more stories of heroes from our current civil rights struggle, maybe even lifting up the names of gay and lesbian Baptists and their supportive straight friends who take a “Maiden Voyage” and cast their lot with folks in Providence Road Church, creating conditions for radical change. This kind of action is certainly not the only path to truth. I hope and trust it is one way.

    Comment by Stan Dotson

  • May 25, 2012 at 2:57 pm

    Stanley, sometimes I think we have a major failure to communicate. I wasn’t in any way referring to or relating to that hateful sermon. I was referring to the use of the words gay bashers & war mongers. I was actually agreeing with you that his way of being hateful and judgmental is wrong. I think you are just so used to disagreeing with me that you automatically jumped to the wrong conclusion. Do you really think I am so self absorbed as to think a blog I seldom read was directed at me? Geesh. We need to get together more often so you can really get to know me before making assumptions about who I am. Maybe then you will finally stop putting words in my mouth that I didn’t say. So in conclusion, my point was that it should be separated that some of those who stand on Biblical principle and the Worleys of the world are not the same people. Also, there is no “worst they would receive from me” I do not force my beliefs on anyone, nor do I tell ANYONE EVER that they are “hell-bound”. The ONLY thing they would get from me(if they ask) is that the BIBLE says it’s sin. Not me, the BIBLE.

    Comment by Shannon

  • May 25, 2012 at 5:31 pm

    Shannon, when you say “I wasn’t in any way referring to or relating to that hateful sermon” you make my point. How exactly were we to know you weren’t dealing at all with the topic at hand? You responded to a blog post and a discussion thread in which that hateful sermon was the topic, and you made a defensive statement against using the word “gay-basher” as if Janet was talking about all people who think being in a gay relationship is sinful. We were talking about Charles Worley’s harangue. If you want to denounce his diatribe as hateful gay-bashing in which you want no association with, please be clearer and more direct. As for never telling anyone they are hell-bound, I would encourage you to refresh your memory and go back to some of those lengthy threads in which the argument was made many times that people outside various prescribed doctrinal statements and people engaged in various behaviors cannot make it to heaven. I apologize if you were not one of the ones in that group of like-minded folks who were hammering that point away, or if I failed to detect your lack of a thumbs up on their comments. And please refrain from the old saying, “not me, the BIBLE”, as we have proven over and over that we are all reading the Bible and interpreting it through our lenses. There’s plenty of you there, even as you cite chapter and verse of the passages that you find supportive of your political and cultural views.

    Comment by Stan Dotson

  • May 25, 2012 at 6:41 pm

    If I am understanding cuz, and the drum he continually beats or hobby horse he is riding, he wants you to put on your progressive lenses!haha

    Comment by jim munsey

  • May 25, 2012 at 9:08 pm

    What a world we live in! To glorify sin and try to use the Bible to do it,WOW! Lev. 20:13 is about as clear as it gets on the subject of gays,its a sin plain and simple and you must ask for forgiveness or your not washed in the Blood of Christ. Always remember love the sinner HATE the sin,and never glorify the sin! My two cents! :-)

    Comment by tom riley

  • May 25, 2012 at 9:14 pm

    Stanley, Ummmm probably you might have known by my first sentence with a question mark on the comment I made, but I dearly love that you play dumb about it. I was under the impression that you were a pretty clever fella. Instead I think YOU are the one who is quick to judgment. I have never told any individual that they were going to hell. In any conversation ever. It is one of my core beliefs that no ones eternal destination is my place to call. That’s between them and God. What I have stated is that sin without the cover of the sacrifice, (as scripture states) results in hell. I am very sorry but I don’t know how to put on black or rose colored lenses when the scripture clearly states that something is an abomination to God. I do not feel any sentence with those words can be read any other way, so with my clear lenses I read those words the way they are written. But let me reiterate… stating ANY persons eternal destination is not my call. I have my own faults to focus on, so I leave that between each individual and God. You and your rose colored glasses may be able to paint a rosy picture out of the scripture regarding what is classified as sin, but if it quacks it’s probably a duck. Oh and another thing, I just LOVE it when you call scriptures that are the basis of our belief PROOF texts. You and the whole rewriting scripture crowd might want to look up the definition of proof. ;)

    Comment by Shannon

  • May 25, 2012 at 9:38 pm

    My heroes are people like Adrian Rogers, Paige Patterson, Charles Stanley, and John MCArthur, these men have kept the faith, preached the gospel and have kept baptist seminaries purged of doctrinal error and I am thankful for them. They focused not on fixing all the social injustices but preached as Christ did, which was to seek and save the lost. They preached Christ and His atonement as the only hope for hopeless, helpless humanity. That’s the sum total of it all is Jesus Christ who is totally and completely sufficient for salvation all by HIMSELF! AMEN

    Comment by jim munsey

  • May 25, 2012 at 9:41 pm

    No Shannon, placing a question mark after your quote from Janet’s comment did not communicate what you apparently were trying to communicate. What your question mark did communicate was that you were calling Janet’s phrase into question, which, in the context we were talking about, communicated that you were calling into question that Charles Worley was a gay-basher. And following that, your defensive comment communicated that you were taking her remark personally, all of which communicated that you were somehow identifying with Rev Worley’s ilk. I appreciate your correcting all these impressions that came from your statement. I was not and am not playing dumb. And I don’t think it’s a stretch to use a bit of logic, and when you claim you never consign anyone to hell, but you simply tell people whose sin is not covered by sacrifice in the way you understand theology that their condition leads them to hell, well, that certainly quacks like a duck as you say. As far as proof texts, I hope you read the post enough to see that I was pointing out that some traditional proof texts of hell fire and brimstone preaching is contradicted by Paul’s universalist language in Romans 11. That’s not rewriting scripture, by the way, its an understanding that there are different voices in scripture, representing different theological traditions of Judaism and the early church, and in Romans 11 the voice is clearly universalist. Some of us will put more emphasis on texts like these, while others will explain them away or rewrite them as you say and put more emphasis on the eternal torture of hell passages (by the mercies of God, of course). It’s an interesting dialogue, and I do appreciate that you are reading the blog and making your contributions. Blessings.

    Comment by admin

  • May 25, 2012 at 9:45 pm

    Cuz Jim – I’m glad to see you’re still reading the blog, and that you still have a good sense of humor. Thanks for your comments, misguided though they are. I have no investment in Shannon becoming progressive. I appreciate diversity of thought, and the role conservatism plays in our culture. As for your heroes, it reminds me of a saying our high school principal, Mr. Dalton, said in his thought for the day every Valentines Day – “Nobody’s sweetheart is ugly.” As ugly as the actions of these men have been in their purge mentality, and as much as it damaged the cause of cooperative missions, I understand that they are sweethearts in your eyes, and you can’t see their ugliness. Fair enough.

    Comment by admin

  • May 25, 2012 at 9:49 pm

    Tom, I’m glad to have you, also, as a blog reader. It’s good to have a diversity of theological opinions represented in the dialogue. As for the clarity of Leviticus, I won’t ask if you eat shrimp or wear clothing of blended material or relatively trivial matters such as these, which are clearly referenced in the holiness code. I’d rather get your opinion on this mandate from Leviticus, which does have direct bearing on our national debate: “When an alien resides with you in your land, you shall not oppress the alien. The alien who resides with you shall be to you as the citizen among you; you shall love the alien as yourself.” What do you think the implications of this are for our national policy, Tom?

    Comment by admin

  • May 25, 2012 at 9:54 pm

    well I am glad to see you werent offended by my humor and yes I still am a fundamentalist or preferably a bible believer. We will have to agree to disagree.

    Comment by jim munsey

  • May 25, 2012 at 9:58 pm

    No offense, cuz. And we can agree on this – we are both Bible believers.

    Comment by admin

  • May 25, 2012 at 10:02 pm

    You might look at Romans 11 more as election and not as universalism, there is no universalism but election according to God’s sovereignty.

    Comment by jim munsey

  • May 25, 2012 at 10:10 pm

    ok well put me back in the fundamentalist camp then

    Comment by jim munsey

  • May 25, 2012 at 10:25 pm

    Good re-write, Jim. The meaning of “all” is pretty clear to me. As far as election goes, this passage is very clear that God puts a check by “ALL of the above”, Jew and Gentile.

    Comment by Stan Dotson

  • May 25, 2012 at 10:26 pm

    So, Jim, you want out of the Bible-believing camp if I’m in it? Ha.

    Comment by Stan Dotson

  • May 25, 2012 at 10:30 pm

    you got to read romans 9 and 10 first before you read 11 so election is in view here not universalism

    Comment by jim munsey

  • May 25, 2012 at 10:41 pm

    So, chapters 9 and 10 lead you to believe Paul didn’t really mean “all” when he said “all” those two times, once referring to all of Israel and the next referring to all the world? You might find it interesting that the early church fathers, such as Origen of Alexandria, the first great systematic theologian and Christian apologist of the patristic period, interpreted the book of Romans and all of Paul’s letters as advocating a belief in universal salvation. Origen did believe in hell, but in a temporary hell that was for some a necessary path to heaven. Of course, he lived and wrote before the time the church became the empire. After Constantine baptized the entire Roman empire and made it “holy”, the theologians found the doctrine of eternal hell and their interpretations of who’s going there to be a powerful tool to wield for social control.

    Comment by Stan Dotson

  • May 26, 2012 at 7:55 am

    what would it profit a man to gain the whole world and lose his own soul. Jesus
    Luke 16:23-26 Jesus before Origen, Jesus the Great I AM OF HISTORY. Because it truly is his story.

    Comment by jim munsey

  • May 26, 2012 at 8:26 am

    Jim, you are certainly correct in pointing out that Paul’s teaching on universal salvation does not have a direct antecedent to Jesus’ teaching. Jesus certainly spoke of hell and eternal judgment; I think of the rich man who resented giving welfare to the beggar. You have to consider the possibility, though, that Jesus, as he so often did in his teaching, was speaking in hyperbole, to make a point in a particular situation. For example, the moral of the story of Dives and Lazarus is, at least according to some of the great biblical scholars throughout history, such as the reformer Martin Luther, to be about the relationship between rich and poor in this life, and the afterlife part was a way for Jesus to drive his point home about the necessity of distributing wealth. But there’s another part of Jesus’ teaching you have to consider as well – the love of God, more loving than any parent. I consider you to be a good parent to your children, Jim. If one of them strayed, I don’t expect you would ever utilize waterboarding or pull out their fingernails as a punishment. You love them too much to torture them. Or if a child in your neighborhood, not yours, but a neighbor’s child, rebelled and rejected the good life, I don’t imagine you would advocate burning cigarettes on their skin as punishment. Jesus taught that if we love children, how much more loving is God. Until I can imagine you throwing a wayward child into a gas chamber as punishment, I will not be able to align my understanding of a loving God who is more loving than we are, throwing wayward children into an eternal torture chamber. Jesus’ teaching on love trumps his hyperbolic use of hell as a motivator for the rich to give to the poor. Jesus is the great I AM. I’ll take his life and teaching on love as the supreme lens through which to read all his other parables and stories.

    Comment by Stan Dotson

  • May 26, 2012 at 9:02 am

    Always remember God’s love is predicated on HIS HOLINESS AND RIGHTEOUSNESS. He is God and I am not, so whatever He chooses to do is good and right.

    Comment by jim munsey

  • May 26, 2012 at 9:28 am

    I would encourage you, Jim, to always remember that God’s holiness and righteousness is predicated on his love. Love defines holiness. Whatever God chooses to do is good and right only because God is defined by love. Let me ask you this, Jim: do you believe there is a point in time at which children become accountable to God for their salvation? Say there’s a 7 or 8 year little girl who has heard the gospel and understands the concepts of sin and forgiveness and the cross, but has not yet made a profession of faith. Does it not at all bother your understanding of God to imagine God throwing this little girl into a lake of fire, to be consciously aware of her torture throughout eternity? Over 20,000 children die every day in our world. Can you imagine God doing this daily, casting hundreds if not thousands of young children, bright enough to understand the gospel, but not yet saved, into a torture chamber where they will weep and wail for eternity. That neither sounds remotely righteous nor holy, much less loving, to me. It’s one thing to wish such bad things on the Hitlers of our world. It’s another thing to play the literalism out to its logical ends. So, for me, I’ll take Jesus’ word that God is a loving parent who will treat the children of this world with far more compassion than the most loving human could ever do. That’s enough for me.

    Comment by Stan Dotson

  • May 26, 2012 at 12:10 pm

    I didn’t quote her whole comment, only the words “Gay bashers and war mongers, but if you weren’t “playing” I understand. Amen Jim, God cannot abide sin. Therefore Gods love is predicated by Holiness, not the other way around. Otherwise, there is no need for the sacrifice.

    Comment by Shannon

  • May 26, 2012 at 12:18 pm

    That’s just it Stanley, I don’t tell people their condition leads them to hell. I don’t know their hearts and I don’t know their lives. If I quote a scripture that condemns a particular sin, well there are many that would apply to me. I work everyday to be the best I can be. Sometimes I fail. That’s when I pray to God through my saviors name asking for help and forgiveness. If I am presented with a scenario that is different from the scripture as I understand it, any statement on my part is so other individuals can do the same. Not to tell them they’re going to hell.

    Comment by Shannon

  • May 26, 2012 at 12:32 pm

    Shannon, yes, you quoted that one “gay-bashers” phrase with a question mark, and immediately went on the defensive, making it sound like her application of that phrase to brother Worley was unjustified. If you want to rebuke his words and distance yourself from the way he expresses his beliefs, you are free to do. As for the holiness of God, knowing that you’re a great mom and love kids, I’d ask you to address the question I gave Jim, about the holiness of God sending young kids to hell every day. As for the sacrifice on the cross, I happen to believe the words of Paul in his letter to the Colossian church: “For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him [Jesus], and through him to reconcile to himself ALL things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross (Colossians 1:19-20, my emphasis). There’s that pesky “ALL” word again. If God, in God’s good pleasure, chooses to reconcile ALL things to God’s self through the cross, I’m not going to put up an argument and tell God that in his holiness he ought not be so loving.

    Comment by Stan Dotson

  • May 26, 2012 at 1:27 pm

    Stan, lets be sure and do proper exegesis my friend. I can point out 2 or 3 more scriptures that seemingly point to universalism but I would be dishonest in my study because I would have to disregard multitudes of other scriptures to arrive at that endpoint, so when Jesus says He is the only way,truth and life. I am going to believe Him. His holiness is the ONLY WAY HE can love me and you and thats why we cant love the way He loves. So His love is because of His Righteous nature. Forget all the hypotheticals and always remember God will do what is right.

    Comment by jim munsey

  • May 26, 2012 at 2:15 pm

    I think the argument that God will send children to hell is invalid. When certain people weren’t allowed into the promised land including Moses, all under 18 yr olds WERE allowed. I will have to refresh my memory and reread that particular point, (because I have been in the New Testament for awhile) but I’m pretty sure that’s what it said. That being said, those of an accountable age must be covered or miss the “promised land”.

    Comment by Shannon

  • May 26, 2012 at 2:52 pm

    Shannon, I love the way you “re-write” and add your own jots and tittles to the Word. Seventeen year olds are not accountable, huh? (Actually, the cut-off age for entering the Promised Land was 20). Funny how the New Testament didn’t say anything like that. You can sure do some hermeneutical gymnastics to make the Bible conform to your theology. Given your understanding that the age of accountability is 20, doesn’t that invalidate any of the professions of faith and baptisms of anyone under 20? Since they obviously don’t know the difference between good and evil (which is the biblical justification in Numbers for letting the little ones in). I can promise you that I knew the difference between good and evil long before my 20th birthday, understood what it felt like to be convicted of sin, and understood what Preacher Crayton was talking about when he gave the invitation and I walked the aisle. Keep on re-writing, Shannon, it’s entertaining to read your thoughts.

    Comment by Stan Dotson

  • May 26, 2012 at 3:04 pm

    Jim, I’m glad you recognize that there are scriptural passages that point to universalism. You don’t have to disregard multitudes of other passages, though. That the Bible contains multiple theological perspectives need not be troubling. It simply necessitates that we do our study to determine which passages are primary for us, which ones will serve as a lens through which to interpret the others. You can either decide that an eternal torture is primary, and use that as a lens through which to interpret an all-loving God, or you can decide that an all-loving God is primary, and use that as a lens through which to interpret the torture passages. If you choose the first, then you can justify torturing your children with burning cigarettes on their arms, because under that logic, that can be a loving and a Godly thing to do. If you choose the second, by any reasonable person’s understanding of love, you have to interpret the torture passages as examples of symbolic hyperbole, a highly effective rhetorical device used to drive home a point. In the case of Dives and Lazarus, the point Jesus is driving home is that if rich people want to participate in the Kingdom they better not begrudge the distribution of their wealth to the poor beggars of our world. As for Jesus being the Way, yes, we’ve covered that ground before. I do understand Jesus to be the only Way to the Kingdom, that is, if you want to participate in the Kingdom, if you want to enter into the eternal reign of love, then accept the way of love, follow him, which is demonstrated in some very particular ways according to scripture: loving your enemies, welcoming the strangers, sharing with the poor, and having grace and mercy to ALL. That is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. And it’s a great life.

    Comment by Stan Dotson

  • May 26, 2012 at 7:26 pm

    I believe your progressive lenses have become foggy again, must be the mountain air clouding your vision! haha Isaiah 55:8 and Romans 3:4 and Jeremiah 17:9 should help your spiritual lenses. You have brought God down to your level and accept what you want and discard the rest. I am in agreement with Daryl, shannon, tom and those that hold to sole scriptura and hold to a more literal view of scripture and not literary gymnastics. take care cuz

    Comment by jim munsey

  • May 26, 2012 at 7:31 pm

    Acts 20:21

    Comment by jim munsey

  • May 26, 2012 at 7:36 pm

    I have read all the posts on this blog and I would like to give you my take. First I don’t think you understand Shannon’s point,she said that all the children got to go to the promised land,not the whole age of accountability. Stan I think you are a very kind man,but a few things we differ on are You have to accept Christ not anybody else,the word all means his children who have answered the call to accept Christ,and that hell is real if you don’t accept Christ as your savior then that’s where you will spend eternity. God does love everyone but he hates sin and if you don’t accept Christ your sins are not covered. Thanks for allowing me to share my thoughts. Jim,I think I am in the same camp you are in Brother!!!

    Comment by tom riley

  • May 26, 2012 at 7:41 pm

    Stan, my post wasn’t even about the age of accountability, it was the point that ALL the children got in. I haven’t rewritten anything. As I stated before I wasn’t sure what the exact age was, but I do know that all the “little children” you were trying to have us sending to hell DID get into the promised land. As far as age of accountability, that’s a whole different topic. I am not sure what that age is because I think it’s different for everyone. I’m not God, so I don’t make that determination. I love how you leap on things that you think will give you a point, but I guess I’m in good company because you do the same to Daryl, Jim, Tom, oh and lest we forget, the Bible.

    Comment by Shannon

  • May 26, 2012 at 7:57 pm

    I just can’t understand why Christ had to die on that old rugged cross. When its clear here on this blog that ALL make it in no matter what you believe or what god you follow. As for sin who cares as long as you feed the hungry and welcome the stranger. I think in future blogs we will find out that Jesus didn’t die on the cross,he really came and had a series of town hall meetings with an all you can eat buffet to spread the word that God loves everything there is no sin that can cost you anything so live and love. Stay tuned for another episode of’As the Bible turns.

    Comment by tom riley

  • May 26, 2012 at 8:02 pm

    Jim, thanks for passing on some great passages. Let me share how they apply to our conversation: Isaiah said of God “My thoughts are not your thoughts.” Yes, but it would ludicrous to believe that God’s thoughts and ways would be inferior to ours, less than ours. Jesus taught they God’s compassion is superior to ours. Compassionate, loving human beings know better than to burn cigarettes on their children as punishment. For you to try and justify God sending children to a literal burning torture chamber by using Isaiah’s words is the same thing as saying God’s ways are less than our ways. Again, since you are unwilling to acknowledge that being a godly father would include such cruel torture to your children, you are not following your reading of the texts to their logical conclusion.

    Paul said in Romans “Let God be proved true.” Yes, and how do we prove God to be True? By examining the embodiment of Truth, Jesus Christ, who died for all, so that, as Paul went on to say, ALL Israel would be saved, ALL the world would be shown mercy, ALL things in heaven and on earth would be reconciled to God. This proves the truth of God, that it is God at work, and not human beings at work.

    Jeremiah said, “The heart is deceitful above all things, who can know it?” Yes, and I believe one of the most insidious examples of that deceit is the attempt of human beings to square in their heart of hearts the idea of a loving God with the actions of consigning children to torture. I can hardly think of a worse form of self-deception.

    Luke said in Acts: “I testified to both Jews and Greeks about repentance towards God and faith towards our Lord Jesus.” Yes, I am a firm believer in repentance from the world’s values and placing faith in the Way of Jesus. The world’s intuition is to hoard resources and begrudge distributing our wealth to the poor. Repentance is called for, and faith in the Way of Jesus. The world’s intuition is to respond to our enemies with violence. Repentance is called for, and faith in the Way of Jesus. The world’s intuition is to fear and loathe the stranger, the alien in our midst. Repentance is called for, and faith in the Way of Jesus. The world’s intuition is to flip people off and imagine everyone outside their belief system to go to hell. Repentance is called for, and faith in the Way of Jesus.

    Again, great passages, Jim. Thanks for passing them along.

    Comment by Stan Dotson

  • May 26, 2012 at 8:08 pm

    Tom, thanks again for being a faithful reader of the Daily Passages blog, and for contributing to the dialogue. I did understand that Shannon was referring to the younger generation being allowed to enter the Promised Land. What she did with that narrative, though, which clearly refers to God’s putting judgment on the generation that engaged in grumbling in the wilderness, was re-write it to say that all children under 20 will go to heaven, which is part of the “age of accountability” belief system. As for the word “all”, Paul does not say it means his children who have accepted Christ. In fact, he expressly says that the Israelites rejected Christ, and yet ALL Israel would be saved. Likewise, in the next section, he did not place limits as you have on “ALL”, he did not qualify what he meant by ALL, he simply said ALL would be shown mercy, the same as he said in another letter, ALL things in heaven and on earth would experience reconciliation with God. When you start putting your qualifications on what Paul said here, you are adding jots and tittles and rewriting the clear intent of his message. Thanks again for sharing, Tom.

    Comment by Stan Dotson

  • May 26, 2012 at 8:18 pm

    No Tom, I’m sorry you’ve misread what I’ve said. I understand, directly from Paul’s letter to the Colossians, that Jesus died on that old rugged cross to reconcile all things, in heaven and on earth, to God. He died on that cross to make us alive to the Way of the Kingdom, to forgive ALL sins, to erase the record that stood against us with its legal demands. He set all this aside. I do believe we have to accept Christ, the Way of Jesus, the Way of unconditional love, love for enemies, the Way of welcoming the stranger, the Way of sharing with the poor. We don’t do this of our own human ingenuity. It is by the transforming of our hearts and the renewing of our minds. And I believe enough in the efficacy of the cross and the power of the Holy Spirit that this transformation and this renewal of mind and spirit can happen no matter what human creed or religious practice or culture one is born into. And if people don’t get the transformation here, I imagine the early church fathers might have been right, in believing that hell is a last resort vehicle for that transformation, preparing people’s hearts and minds and spirits for eternal entrance into the kingdom of love and peace. I hope you will be a little more gracious toward my discipleship and reading of scripture, and allow that these passages as written are authoritative to me, and not another chapter of “as the Bible turns.” Thanks again for sharing your thoughts.

    Comment by Stan Dotson

  • May 26, 2012 at 8:21 pm

    Stan, you are a trip cuz. You have become very creative in your middle aged years!! wow!!! very interesting, I am going to stick to being a fundamentalist.

    Comment by jim munsey

  • May 26, 2012 at 8:29 pm

    Shannon, your post, despite what you say, was in fact about an age of accountability. To use the Numbers passage as grounds for belief that God lets all children up to the age of 20 into heaven, as he let the younger generation enter the promised land, is in effect an effort to create an age where people are accountable and their beliefs or lack thereof will determine their eternal destiny. It is quite a stretch and one of the best examples of re-writing scripture I’ve seen. The clear point of the Numbers passage is that God was judging the generation of wilderness wanderers who had engaged in idolatry and grumbling, and was not going to have the children suffer for the sins of their parents. If we are going to continue in our practice of witnessing to children and giving them to benefit of the doubt that they understand right from wrong, and if we continue to celebrate their professions of faith and baptize them, then the clear implication is that these very same children, at age 7 or 8 or 9 or whenever it is that they begin feeling the conviction of sin and understand the plan of salvation, are no different than young people at age 20. I can understand why you would want to re-write scripture though, and why you would wish that there was a clear New Testament statement similar to the Numbers passage, giving us assurance that no 7 year old girls will be sent to hell today. It is a gruesome thought, and I can appreciate why you as a mom would not be able to get your head or heart around that horror and affirm it as true. Of course you can’t imagine God sending hundreds and thousands of little ones into eternal torture every day. I’m glad you can’t. It gives me hope.

    Comment by Stan Dotson

  • May 26, 2012 at 8:56 pm

    Jim, I take that as a great compliment. Becoming creative sounds quite biblical to me, as Paul says we are co-laborers with God, which sounds like a very creative enterprise. In my creative middle age, I am even getting creative enough to come to appreciate the role of fundamentalism in our world. So stick with it, cuz. It keeps the conversation lively. I trust you enough to know that you would never act on the implications of your belief in the godliness of torture. Your children are safe.

    Comment by Stan Dotson

  • May 26, 2012 at 9:44 pm

    saved they are and nothing can wash away my sins nothing but the blood of Jesus, nothing can make them whole again, nothing but the blood of Jesus, oh precious is the flow that makes me, my children and all who have trusted in Christ white as snow,NOTHING BUT THE BLOOD OF JESUS. NOW THAT IS ENOUGH TO MAKE A BAPTIST SHOUT AT LEAST A SAVED ONE!!!!! GLORY TO GOD

    Comment by jim munsey

  • May 26, 2012 at 9:55 pm

    Glad to get you on shouting ground, Jim. Not to put too fine a point on it, but to make sure we’re speaking the same language, when I said your children are “safe”, I meant they are safe from having you do things like burn cigarettes on their skin when they misbehave. Unfortunately, in the world we live in, many children who are “saved” spiritually speaking, are not “safe” from physical brutality. I was complimenting you, in this regard, saying that I know your heart well enough to trust that you would not allow your theology of God’s holiness and your desire to be a godly father to lead you to imitate God’s presumed torture of children.

    Comment by Stan Dotson

  • May 26, 2012 at 9:57 pm

    Just wondering, if any of the folks reading and responding here about the reality of hell would want to get back to the original focus of this blog, and make a comment on Charles Worley’s wish that all homosexuals would be rounded up and sent to a death camp? How does that language strike you, coming from a pulpit in a Baptist church? How would you respond to him?

    Comment by Stan Dotson

  • May 27, 2012 at 2:35 pm

    I wish the church would turn into the church talked about in the book of Acts. Where the church took every dime and put it back in the comm. be it helping the hungry,or with people who need help with bills due to problems beyond their control,and people in the church working together to help find jobs for people who happen not to have one,helping the old with tasks they are’nt able to do anymore,just working together. Stan back to what your blog is about I don’t think hate talk from the church is alright we must love everyone like Christ does,and with that being said we also have to preach against sin because Christ said to go and sin no more,we must try to be Christ like,and living in sin without asking for forgiveness is not Christ like.

    Comment by tom riley

  • May 28, 2012 at 6:59 am

    Tom, thanks for your comment, and that’s a great dream of living like the early church. We can all try to adopt those values. Also, I think you’d find great agreement among liberal and progressive Christians about preaching against sin, as most I know preach regularly about the sins Christ railed against most – greed, hoarding wealth, mistreating the outcasts and strangers, withholding love. As for sexuality, the point of disagreement is over what constitutes sin. We can agree that promiscuity and abuse are sinful no matter the gender of the people perpetrating it. We can also agree that values of fidelity, monogamy, mutual love and life-long commitments are at the core of good marriages. We just disagree over who can enjoy the blessings of those relationships. I have come to understand same-gender relationships in the same light, scripturally, as multi-racial relationships, or relationships between people who have been divorced, both of which in earlier generations were seen as sinful and prohibited, with clear scriptural texts to prove those points.

    Comment by Stan Dotson

  • May 28, 2012 at 8:21 am

    There is a passage in the New Testament that says if anyone harm one such as these…Jesus said that, just wondering if you think he would make a statement like that and not mean it? As far as Worley is concerned, those are the ones that give Christians a bad name. There are loving ways in which to address sin. While I honestly don’t think he would attempt to ever do such a thing, when you are in a position of authority in the Church, you need to lead your congregation in a spirit of love and prayer. Forgetting any personal feelings we need to show the same compassion for the sinner that Christ showed to the woman at the well. All the while remembering that we are ALL sinners.

    Comment by Shannon

  • May 28, 2012 at 12:45 pm

    Shannon, it is good to hear you speak clearly on the Charles Worley matter, and to know that we have found an area of agreement there! Gay-bashing truly does give Christians a bad name. And I love the Jesus passage you referenced, and of course he meant it, he was demonstrating the heart of God. It gives me great hope to see you quoting passages of God’s love – I sense you are “almost persuaded” like Agrippa was. Keep reading! God cannot act contrary to God’s heart; that’s why love is primary for me, and defines holiness, not the other way around. God’s love is vast, beyond ours, and to imagine God acting in a way LESS loving than any loving human being would act contradicts Jesus’ teaching. Unless we are willing to go to an old person in a nursing home and torture them with cigarette burns, I don’t think we should imagine God doing worse.

    Comment by Stan Dotson

  • May 28, 2012 at 2:54 pm

    I am persuaded that God’s love is well beyond ours. That he gave his only son for the remission of my sins proves it. I couldn’t give any of my children. It just isn’t in me.

    Comment by Shannon

  • May 28, 2012 at 3:21 pm

    Amen, sister. Well beyond ours.

    Comment by Stan Dotson

  • May 28, 2012 at 4:08 pm

    My last comment here, is that God’s word speaks for God and there is no universalismm in salvation. That is a broad leap and for Worley his words were over the top, but just as concerning are preachers who tell people everythings going to be ok, scripture tells another story. And sound doctrine trumped by feelings, or stories about children getting hurt or other types of tales. Jesus is God, He is the only savior of the world and those who trust Him as savior go to heaven, there is no other way. When we try to make God like us we are in big trouble. Hell is real and God has shown mercy to all in the person and work of Jesus Christ. Acts 4:12 Don’t be deceived by things that do not line up with scripture no matter how good they sound.

    Comment by jim munsey

  • May 28, 2012 at 4:09 pm

    Heb. 9:27

    Comment by jim munsey

  • May 29, 2012 at 6:05 am

    Jim, always glad to have your comments, especially your last ones which are followed by more last ones! Yes, God’s word speaks for itself, which is why Paul’s words that “ALL Israel will be saved” even though they reject the gospel of Jesus, and followed by the equally inclusive statement of Gentiles as well; these words speak for themselves to me. You can read them however you like; they say what they say. I take them as authoritative because these words fit with my understanding from scripture that God’s love is steadfast and his mercy endures forever. That is the essential nature of God. As for putting Worley’s speech in the same category as “preachers who tell people everything’s going to be ok,” if you stop to think about it you’ll realize that they are nowhere near in the same boat. If you’re talking about eternal consequences, in terms of their effect on people coming to Christ, I would argue that Worley’s words drive people away from following Christ far more than the words of a preacher who believes that “if Christ be lifted up, he will draw ALL people to himself,” a preacher who calls people to follow the Way of Jesus’ love not to avoid a divine torture chamber, but because it is the true life, the abundant life, the eternal life of Kingdom love. And in terms of the effects of these two kinds of speech here in this world, Worley’s words are the kind that lead to extreme violence; historically this has been the kind of speech used to bring about holocausts. You can’t put desires about putting people in death camps in the same category as telling people that Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross was powerful enough to reconcile everything to Gods self – everything in heaven and on earth. I would encourage you to be a bit more direct in your rejection of brother Worley’s ideology and manner of speaking than “over the top.” And I would encourage you to remember from past conversations that I fully believe passages like Acts 4:12. Jesus is the Way. I love inviting people to that Way, the Way of unconditional love, welcome for the stranger, release to the prisoner, contentment and sharing with the poor. It’s a great life. It’e eternal life, starting in the here and now.

    Comment by Stan Dotson

  • May 29, 2012 at 7:24 am

    can you say eisegesis????????????

    Comment by jim munsey

  • May 29, 2012 at 9:41 am

    Yes, Jim, and it seems you are very familiar with the word. What seems so clear to me is that you wish to take certain passages verbatim, read them literally, and interpret others as not really meaning what they are saying. Which is what we all do, by the way. I happen to be upfront and honest about the passages I find authoritative and primary, through which I read and interpret the other passages. If I simply quote Paul as saying “ALL Israel will be saved,” even though they are, in Paul’s words, “enemies of the gospel”, and take that as literal and authoritative, same as the follow up phrase about mercy on all the rest of humanity, and you take that as eisegesis, so be it. As the Bible teaches in 1 Corinthians 2, the scriptures are spiritually discerned, and the Spirit through which I seek to discern the truth of scripture is the Spirit of steadfast love and enduring mercy. I understand that this is foolishness to the natural man, but it is wisdom for those who have eyes to see and ears to hear. Any more final comments?

    Comment by Stan Dotson

  • May 30, 2012 at 10:48 am

    Beware the wolves in sheep’s clothing… Evil shall be called good… Many will come in my name… Not everyone that says Lord Lord…

    as before, I suggest caution in every “interpretation” attempt. Sometimes our supposed “wisdom” can be misinterpreted and is actually the whisper of the serpent being misidentified as discernment to propagate our own vainglory.

    Comment by Shannon

  • May 30, 2012 at 11:33 am

    Shannon, I certainly agree with the biblical references you cited. I suspect that you would not be surprised to find that I believe there is much evil called good in our church world today, as people claiming to be followers of Christ support gun violence, corporate greed, they regularly disparage the poor, want to deport immigrants, etc etc. Lest I misinterpret your comment, though, am I correct in thinking that you are aiming these comments at me, in effect implying that I am a wolf in sheep’s clothing, that I do not have a genuine relationship with Jesus, that my beliefs are in essence the whisper of the serpent misidentified as discernment? I can appreciate that you did not come right out and say this, but since you have felt I misinterpret your comments in the past, I want to clarify. Is this your feeling? If so, I can even more appreciate your incredibly generous spirit in allowing your daughters to develop a good relationship with me, that you trust them and trust me that much. Were I to have daughters, I don’t think I would want them in the home of someone I thought was perpetrating evil and represented the whisper of the serpent.

    Comment by Stan Dotson

  • May 30, 2012 at 1:43 pm

    My comment was actually directed to everyone, including me. The fact is we are all “discerning” the same scriptures to mean different things. We can’t all be right. So my statement just meant I think we should all be very careful. When all is said and done, being wrong could be costly. Personally Stan, I think you are a kind and good hearted person, I try not to let our disagreements regarding politics, scripture etc, get in the way of family. You & Kim have always been good to my girls. I can appreciate that. Even when we disagree.

    Comment by Shannon

  • May 31, 2012 at 8:10 am

    Thanks, Shannon. That’s a good clarification, and thanks for the good words. Glad to have y’all in the family.

    Comment by Stan Dotson


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